I immediately put my hand out for the phone. I still wasn’t breathing but I was functioning.
She eyed me and nodded. “Okay, calm down, I’m just going to give you to Dex here.”
She placed the phone in mine and twitched her head in the direction of the doors. It seemed like it was something I’d need to take in private.
I gave her a quick smile and put the phone to my ear as I got out of the booth.
“Ada?” I asked, making my way past the crowded tables.
“Dex?” I heard her young, tiny voice on the other end.
“Hi, what’s up? Is Perry okay?” I didn’t want to ask it, I felt like I had no right to, but I couldn’t see any other reason for Ada to call. It had been too long since we had our falling out, the time to be reprimanded had passed. And somewhere in my black heart, the minute I asked it, I knew that Perry wasn’t okay.
I was lucky to have made it out of the restaurant and onto the chilled street when Ada said, “No, she’s not okay. Something’s happened to her.”
I almost dropped the phone. Something had to give, so I did. I leaned against a brick wall and let my legs give out, and slid down until I was sitting on the ground.
“Dex?” she cried out. “Are you there?”
I closed my eyes and swallowed the fear. “Yes. I’m here. What happened?”
“I don’t know.”
“Is she hurt?” My voice cracked. I swallowed hard, shooting out little prayers in between the answers.
“I don’t know, Dex. I shouldn’t even be calling you. I just don’t know what to do. I think she’s possessed. She’s…she’s not herself, I’ve seen things too, things that are after her. They have her strapped to her bed now.”
“Who are they?”
“My parents. Maximus.”
“Maximus?!” I roared. People on the street looked at me and quickened their pace as they went past. I didn’t care. The rage was almost uncontrollable. “What the fuck is he doing there?”
“He and Perry are, well I don’t know. He’s a douchecanoe, that’s all that matters. Dex, she’s gone. She’s going. I don’t know what to do. We did a house cleanse and then Maximus turned his back on us and is making it look like Perry is crazy. I’m afraid they’re going to put her away. You know, in a crazy house. But the thing is killing her, Dex, it’s killing her.”
I was vaguely aware of the restaurant door opening and Rebecca coming out of it. She stood beside me but I couldn’t look up at her. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even process what was going on. Something had Perry and it was killing her. Something so bad that Ada had to call me—of all people—and ask for my help.
“I’ll do whatever I can,” I told her, trying to get the determination in my voice heard over the phone. “You have to promise to keep her safe until I get there.”
“What if I can’t? They don’t listen to me. They’ve got her like an animal…and she is an animal, she’s an animal now!” Ada broke off as her words got clogged by the tears. Ada was one tough teen cookie. Little Fifteen. To hear her cry over Perry put the final dagger into my heart.
“Ada, listen to me. I’m going to take care of this, okay? I’m not going to let anything else happen to her, you understand me? I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure she gets out of this. Give me a day, give me a few hours, I will be there and I will fix her. You understand, Little Fifteen?”
I heard a sniffle and a pause. Finally she said, “Okay. But please hurry.”
“I’ll text you when I’m on my way,” I told her.
“Thank you. Thank you, Dex,” she said. “I knew you weren’t as big of an asshole as everyone said.”
Oh, gee thanks.
“Yeah, well, we’ll see. Hold tight, okay?”
I never made out my bye before the line went dead. I looked up at Rebecca, who was watching me in horror. I was shaking all over.
“I have to go to Perry,” I told her, voice wavering. “She’s in trouble.”
Her eyes widened and then she helped me to my feet before people started thinking I was a crazy street punk.
“Anything I can do?” she asked. I saw the fright in her face and realized how hard it must’ve been to care about us both.
I couldn’t have felt like more of an ass. More of a horrible human being. Not even. A pig, as Rebecca had said. But I couldn’t let myself dwell on it anymore either. I had months of that under my belt. I wanted to better myself. This was the best chance for me to prove myself. It wouldn’t undo anything but…I couldn’t live with myself if I did nothing. Like it or not—and I certainly didn’t like it sometimes—Perry was still the most important thing in the world to me. Knowing she was out there was painful enough. But knowing she might not ever be out there again…that was something I couldn’t live with.
I shook my head and took Rebecca’s hand and kissed it. “Thank you for being there for me through all of this. I’ve got a few phone calls and bribes to make, then I’m out of here.”
“You’ll get her back,” she said, even though she couldn’t have known what trouble Perry was in. “Then when you do, you’re going to bring her here and we’ll all have pizza together.”
I promised her and ran off down the street, into the dusk.
Though Ada’s plea was somewhat vague, I wasn’t about to take any chances. If she said something had Perry and was killing her, that Maximus—THAT DOUCHEFUCKER—was there and had to do a house cleansing, I had no choice but to believe that she was possessed. It sounded like something straight out of a movie, something that didn’t happen in real life, but I was well-versed in things that voided reality.
The problem was, for a supposed ghost hunter, I had no idea what to do. I’d never felt so god damn helpless before. My first instinct was to just go to Perry and figure it out from there. But that’s what the old Dex would have done. I didn’t want to show up unprepared, unable to do anything. I wanted a plan. I wanted to save the day.
“Think, you ass,” I said out loud as I barged into the apartment. Fat Rabbit jumped off the couch and ran toward me, then took one look at my harried face and went back the way he came.
I ran over to the den and hopped on the internet, even though I knew searching for an exorcist wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought. A few chilling pages came up, case stories, the kind of stuff that made you turn around in your chair to see if someone else was in the room with you. It was all so disheartening, really, knowing this shit was going on and knowing that most of the time, no one believed it. You’d think it would make me feel better to know that people like me and Perry weren’t alone in this world, but it didn’t.
But the Roman Catholic Church didn’t seem all that open to exorcisms and few priests would do it. I didn’t have time to go around playing Select-a-Priest—I needed someone now. I didn’t care if I was overreacting, though I had an inkling I wasn’t. “She’s an animal now, she’s an animal.” Ada’s words floated in my head, making my gut twist painfully.
Then something caught my eye. Apparently priests weren’t the only people to deal with demon or ghost possessions. Native Americans were used to dealing with this kind of crazy shit and that was a culture I at least knew a little bit about. Or, I at least knew someone from it.
I whipped out my phone and started going through my contact list. There it was: Bird Man.
The last time I talked to Old Man Bird was in Red Fox, New Mexico. He was a man I trusted, a man who knew way more than he ever let on. A wise old fuck, if you will. He would know what to do, and if he could do anything, he would help us. Or at least help Perry. They had enjoyed a grandfather/granddaughter kinship, and if I may sound a bit new agey, a slightly spiritual connection.
Hoping for the best, I pushed call and put the phone to my ear. It rang a few times and I was starting to wonder if it was too late for me to call him when the line picked up.
“Hello?” Bird’s stoic voice answered.
“Hi, Bird? This is Dex Foray, we met back in Red Fox last October…”
“Dex,” he pronounced my name slowly. “I knew it was you.”
“Oh,” I said, taken aback. Shit, maybe he was more new agey than I thought. “Could you sense me?”
“No, I have caller ID,” he answered simply. “What seems to be the problem, Dex? It’s getting late here and I assume you aren’t calling me to talk about life on the ranch. Though, I will tell you, things have calmed down since Sarah and Shan were found.”
The skinwalkers. A part of me wanted to hear what happened, get some closure to a story that brought Perry and I so close to death, but there just wasn’t time.
“That’s great, Bird,” I told him. “But I’m afraid I have another problem. A bigger problem. It’s about Perry.”
“Perry?” His voice grew more alert. “What happened to her?”
I rubbed at my forehead, feeling like a total idiot for not having the right answer. “I don’t really know…I haven’t seen her for a long time. But her sister called me. She said she’s…it’s like she’s possessed or something. She’s strapped to her bed like an animal…” My voice choked and broke off. “I think they’re going to try and put her away. But Perry isn’t crazy, we know that.”
There was a pause, and in that pause I felt all my hopes fading. Then he said, “Tell me again exactly what her sister said. And tell me why you haven’t seen her for so long.”
I sighed, not wanting to get back into this story. Every time I explained what happened between us, I took one step closer to the darkness, the madness. I had to get past that, past our mistakes.
I took a deep breath and explained to him how Perry lived with me for a week, how we explored the mental institute, how we saw Abby, how she switched my medication, how we made passionate love and promptly tore that love apart. I told him of my descent, my downward spiral, and how I was working to get out of it. I told him she was the light in my madness and I would do absolutely anything to keep her shining.
At the end of all that, instead of feeling the guilt and shame that I normally felt, I felt alive and determined. Maybe I was growing up. Maybe.
“All right,” Bird said. “We need to help her. I think I know who can. There’s a man in Lapwai, Idaho, who has done this sort of thing before. His name is Roman. It’s just there’s a very high risk that things can go wrong, do you understand that, Dex? I can’t completely vouch for him, and if I feel the situation can’t be helped, we can back out. But I feel like he’s our only shot. I can feel the urgency in your voice and I can feel it in my bones.”
Risk or not, if he was our only shot, we had to take it. “I understand. Let’s do it. Is he an exorcist?”